Writing Tips

Our mission at Utah Life Magazine is to tell the story of Utah. This isn't your usual travel magazine – you won't see any listicles here. Instead of listing the top ten restaurants in Salt Lake City, we write about that small diner on the corner that has been run by the same family for three generations. We write about the historic fort in that small town off the interstate. We write about green jello, backyard banjo players and watermelon festivals. This is Utah's story, and we're excited that you want to help tell it.

Our articles have colorful characters, captivating anecdotes and masterful storytelling. We invite you to read the following writing tips to help make your stories be the best fit they can be for Utah Life Magazine. If you have any questions, don't be bashful. We're here to help. Contact editor Chris Amundson at 1-801-921-4585 ext. 2707 or by email at camundson@flagshippublishing.com.

Choosing a story

We print any story that enhances our understanding of Utah. It can be a profile of a person, a business or an organization. It can be a narrative of an experience, a narrative or a community. It can highlight animals, nature or art. Basically – it can be about nearly anything. The only requirement is that it tells the story of Utah. Below is a list of some topics we have printed in the past, just to give you an idea:

Artist profile
Musician profile
Book review
Outdoor adventure
Business profile
Town story
Utah-made products
Local landmarks
Road trips
Seasonal stories
Photo essays

General writing tips

All of our stories should have 1. Characters, 2. Anecdotes, 3. A sense of place. A story without these things is not a story but a collection of information.

Use direct quotes sparingly, only for particularly pithy, colorful turns of phrase. A quote’s purpose is not to convey information; its purpose is to give a sense of character.

An anecdote is a specific story, not a generality, about something that happened. An anecdote can be an incident/episode from the recent or distant past that people relate to you, or it can be a scene you witness unfolding during your reporting.

An anecdote should be entertaining and produce an emotional response. It should be one or all of the following: 1. Funny. 2. Astounding. 3. Heartbreaking. 4. Heartwarming.

An anecdote should illustrate a larger point. Although an anecdote can be about an eccentric character, it should also be applicable to the story in general. Anecdotes about random weirdos can be interesting, but they’re useless for our purposes unless they say something about the story.

When you interview people, they will give you reams of information; most of it is irrelevant for your purposes. You should apply a mental anecdote filter when you listen to people. When you hear something that is a) a specific story, b) entertaining/emotionally moving, and c) representative of the story in some way, then you have a potential anecdote on your hands. Make a note of it and be sure to ask follow-up questions

Feature stories

Each of our stories gets sorted into our various departments. We publish on average four feature stories per issue. If the story can only be told in 1200+ words, then it belongs in the feature department. Feature stories have stunning photography and plenty of intros to invite readers to engage with the text. Expect to have 3-4 main sections in the story and develop a narrative arch in each section. Dive deep into anecdotes and don’t be afraid to interview many people to develop the narrative. If you are interested in writing a feature story, please contact editor Chris Amundson before beginning the writing process. You can reach him at 1-801-921-4585 ext. 2707 or by email at camundson@flagshippublishing.com.

Photo essays

Photo essays are developed around a theme. A theme could be anything from a specific location (Wasatch Front) to a season (spring in Utah) to an abstract idea (the color red). The idea is the find a theme with enough diversity that the images are appealing to readers while still maintaining an overall cohesion. Photo essays inhabit 8 pages and include full-page photographs as well as smaller pictures. Each photo has a caption describing the who, what and where – preferably with a why or a “so what” included.

In addition to the captions, the photo essays have an intro paragraph with a strong lede as well as a section somewhere in the essay with a strong block of text providing more insight into the story – perhaps diving deeper into one particular story behind an image, a history of something or other anecdotes.

Honeycomb department

Our busy bee writers find “sweet discoveries,” like the honey in a beehive – hence “honeycomb.” These stories are short and attention grabbing. They can be about anything, as long as it is quirky, heartwarming, heartbreaking or one-of-a-kind. These stories can range from 75 to 400 words.


Recipes should reflect the flavors of Utah. We often publish reader-contributed recipes that surround a certain theme. We also publish recipes from specific communities, cookbooks or restaurants. Recipe intros should be short (no more than 150 words), concise, informative and tempting. This section should include photographs of the food featured as well as pictures of the contributors if appropriate.

Utah Culture department

This department highlights Utah’s creators: artists, musicians, authors, crafters, builders, etc. These stories capture the personality of the creator and his or her work through lively anecdotes and quirky narrative. These stories range from 200 to 400 words.

Utah Made department

This section highlights the products of a local business in an attractive way. The focus of this section is on the products, but we will include a short intro paragraph (no more than 150 words) describing the business, what makes it unique/special/quirky, and an anecdote demonstrating their personality. We will include pictures featuring various products and include a short description of each item, along with the price and how to purchase it. 

Explore Utah department

What's happening in Utah? Explore Utah highlights various events throughout Utah and pairs them with suggested activities to do on a day trip. For example, we can suggest breakfast locations, hotel accommodations, and a family-friendly activity to go along with Green River's Melon Days festival. A handful of these events will be featured with longer stories (no more than 200 words), giving readers a glimpse into the true spirit of the event with colorful anecdotes and charming characters.

Utah Geology

The Explore Utah department will feature a short story illustrating some geological gem of the state's diverse landscape. With a little hint of scientific explanation behind the geological formation and information on how to see it in person, this column is a great way to show off Utah's unique environment.

What are the next steps to being one of Utah Life's freelance writers?

If you have a story idea, you can submit your idea through our form by clicking here. Or you can email editor Chris Amundson at camundson@utahlifemag.com, and he will help determine how to pair your writing passions with a future story. We love getting involved with other writers who have a passion for Utah, but because of our limited print space and a large amount of freelance queries, we sadly cannot publish everyone. That being said, we want to hear from you! We are always on the search for talented individuals, and we're excited to get in touch with you and share our love of Utah.